State senators call for in-depth Gateway Pacific, coal train study

A group of 13 state senators have joined in calling for a broad analysis of the potential impacts from a coal and bulk marine cargo shipping terminal planned for Cherry Point, north of Bellingham.

The senators voiced their concerns in a letter to Ted Sturdevant, director of the Washington Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen, asking that the State Environmental Policy Act analysis look beyond the specific environmental impacts to the site where the pier would be built.

The legislators are requesting a comprehensive statewide examination of the environmental impacts associated with coal transportation by rail through Bellingham and other communities, as well as the potential impact on businesses and other state rail system users.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-40th, said he organized the effort by the senators.

"I have heard from dozens of individuals and businesses in my district and elsewhere in the state who have concerns regarding the transportation of coal through their communities as well as what impact the significantly increased number of trains per day will have on local businesses," Ranker said. "We believe it is important that the State Environmental Policy Act review be broad enough to consider these statewide impacts, and not just the specific site."

The other senators who signed the letter were identified as Democrats Ed Murray, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Fraser, Nick Harper, Debbie Regala, Steve Conway, Karen Keiser, Sharon Nelson, Paull Shin, Adam Kline and Maralyn Chase, and Republican Dan Swecker.